By Popular Demand: The Effect of Public Opinion on Income Inequality

in Comparative Sociology
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Abstract

This paper examines the relationship between public support for wage differentials and actual income inequality using data from the World Values Surveys. The distribution of income is more equal in nations where public opinion is more egalitarian. There is some evidence that the opinions of people with higher incomes are more influential than those of people with low incomes. Although the estimated relationship is stronger in democracies, it is present even under non-democratic governments, and the hypothesis that effects are equal cannot be rejected. We consider the possibility of reciprocal causation by means of an instrumental variables analysis, which yields no evidence that income distribution affects opinion.

By Popular Demand: The Effect of Public Opinion on Income Inequality

in Comparative Sociology

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